APRIL 1 - A Beverly resident was saved from drowning last Tuesday morning by an alert and quick-thinking Marbleheader.
Monty Rantoul, a native of Beverly, was fishing for flounders close to the mouth of the Garden City's sewer outlet near the center of its harbor, one-half mile from shore, when he suddenly tumbled from his skiff.
Fortunately, his cries for help were heard by Selman Broughton Pedrick, a noted yachtsman and descendant of one of Marblehead's most illustrious families. Though Rantoul was beyond reach, Pedrick used his knowledge of colonial history to save the Beverlyite from a watery grave. He quickly recalled that in 1775 the schooner Hannah had sailed from Marblehead to Beverly, and that an ancestor had entered in his logbook a detailed description of that voyage.
From the pages of the two-century-old journal, Pedrick had learned of the many obstacles and difficulties that the Hannah had encountered before she berthed at Glover's wharf. In addition to battling a succession of baffling crosswinds and breasting a sluggish ebbing tide, she had had to inch her way through the long, narrow and tortuous channel opening into the shoal waters of Beverly Harbor and gingerly edge her way past the innumerable sandspits, tidal reefs and mudflats lurking beneath its surface.
(Several years later, the skipper of the Hannah swore that he personally had observed hundreds of eels die an untimely death in Beverly's labyrinth-like channel. He claimed that they became so unhinged while struggling to negotiate its twists and turns, that they died of Dementia Praecox!)
The moment he recalled these facts, Pedrick cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted:
"Stand up! Stand up, you gurley-gutted lunkhead! Stand up!"
Fortunately, Rantoul heard Pedrick's booming voice and heeding his instructions, raised his head, straightened his body and lowered his legs.
Minutes later, Monty Rantoul, oozing mud and slime, crawled safely ashore-thanks to a 200-year-old logbook and Selman Broughton Pedrick's knowledge of history!
* * *
I once questioned an Old Timer about the town's unique pastime.
"When you was a boy, did you and your pals ever squael strangers?" I asked.
He pondered a moment, groping for an answer. Then, shamefaced and crestfallen, he confessed:
"Noooo I never did. That is not unless they was from Salem, Lynn or Beverly."
* * *
The day a prominent racing skipper launched his sleek new yacht, a huge crowd gathered to witness the event. As the graceful little craft, festooned with gaudy streamers and colorful pennants, was about to slip smoothly into the water, his wife smashed the traditional bottle of champagne across its bow.
A reporter, present at that gala affair, observed that "her sheer lines, stunning superstructure and shapely bottom were much admired by the cheering crowd."
* * *
Several years ago, a fire raging on an island near the mouth of Boston Harbor drew hundreds of citizens to the waterfront. Sensing a potential headline story, the editor of one of that city's more enterprising newspapers hired a tugboat and dispatched a photographer to the scene of the conflagration.
When the tug reached the island, her captain (from down Barnegat way) nosed it within spitting distance of an isolated beach. Fearing that he was about to ground his vessel, he motioned the photographer to jump overboard and wade ashore.
"How deep is the water?" asked the photographer, peering over the rail.
From the tug's wheelhouse, the captain cupped one hand six inches above the other. Thus reassured, the photographer slung his camera over his shoulder and plunged feet-first into the brine.
Seconds later, the photographer popped to the surface, covered from head to foot with muck, sludge and slime. Shaking a clenched fist at the captain, he snarled between a stream of hair-curling oaths, "You *#+$%* liar! You!
"Didn't you tell me that the water here was only six inches deep?!" he shouted.
"Yes, I did," replied the captain, "but what you're in ... is mud!"
* * *
Early one April morning, a newcomer entered the town's most colorful hardware store.
"Do you sell lawnmowers?" he asked the store's owner who was lolling comfortably in a chair, his fingers caressing keys of an antiquated cash register.
The storekeeper, eyeing the newcomer indifferently, answered, "Yes, I do."
Yet, when asked if he'd deliver one of the mowers to the newcomer's home on Marblehead Neck, he lazily shook his head.
"Sorry," he said. "It's out of the question, 'cause I don't sell or deliver lawnmowers until after the first day of May."
* * *
One morning, an early riser saw two bedraggled figures emerge from the depths of the gravel pits at Legg's Hill. It was obvious from their gait and garb that they had spent the previous evening "pub-crawling." It was also plain to see that they had spent the night in some secluded, grassy hollow "sleeping off" its aftereffects.
The younger of the two was complaining bitterly as he massaged his neck and kneaded the muscles of his arms and legs.
"How come your neck ain't stiff and sore and hurting the way mine is?" he crabbed. "You rested your head on a sewer pipe the same as me, didn't you?"
"Sure I did," boasted his companion. "But I was smarter'n you. I stuffed mine with hay!"
* * *
"Did you ever sail into Beverly Harbor?"
My grandfather stared at me in disbelief.
"Good heavens, no," he said. "Why, you know as well as I do that Beverly is the only port in the world where once the tide goes out, it never comes back!"
* * *
"Permit me, sir. I'm Reginald Stokely Vandercamp, Harvard, Class of 1930 ... an attorney with Boston's prestigious law firm, Humphrey, Thorndike & Bowdoin. You're familiar with our firm, I'm sure."
The judge (Marblehead's leading counselor-at-law), who had been mulling over a boundary dispute that had been sired two centuries earlier, put aside his pen, glanced over the top of his rimless glasses and withdrew from his mouth the tie whose ends he was chewing.
"Yes," he said. "I do think I've heard the name before. So, do draw up a chair."
"Sir," continued the proper young barrister, running his eyes over the rumpled figure lolling in a broken-down chair behind an old and cluttered desk. "Surely you must know that our clients are some of Boston's richest, most prominent families, the pillars of North Shore society, several of whom reside here in Marblehead."
"In that case," murmured the judge. "Draw up two chairs!"
* * *
"What would you like for Christmas?" asked Filene's jovial Santa Claus.
"Plenty," answered the brash young Marbleheader, reeling off a lengthy list of knickknacks, toys and games, plus a pair of skates and a football.
Minutes later, in neighboring Jordan Marsh, an equally jovial Santa Claus asked the youngster the same identical question.
"For *&#*$%+#," snarled the outraged youngster. "What'n hell's the matter with you, you fat *$#+%$#*. Didn't I just tell you what I wanted a minute ago?!"